For most Catholics attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) is a daunting thought. However, Confession is the Sacrament in which God’s Mercy manfests itself in the most dramatic way. It reminds us that no matter how great our sins, God’s Mercy abounds; no sin is too great for God. In approaching the Confessional, no matter how uncomfortable, ashamed or afraid we might feel, we place our trust in God and our joy is complete at the end of the experience. Jesus demonstrates the depth of His mercy in the parable of the prodigal son (LK 11:15-32).
There is much rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents, much more rejoicing than when there is a large number of virtuous men (LK 15:7). So although we may be ashamed or afraid, we are called to have courage and approach this great Sacrament of Mercy. God’s mercy knows no limits and his representative (the priest) understands our human limitaitons as he lives with his own limitations also.
Instituted by Jesus so His Mercy can transform lives
After His Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his Apostles and gave them authority to forgive or retain sins “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you retain, they are retained” (Jn 20:21:23). Through the grace of Ordination, this power has been handed down from the Apostles to the modern day apostles (the bishops) and they priests they ordain.
In this Sacrament he literally transforms our lives. If we are properly disposed to the Sacrament through adequate preparation, have true sorrow for our sins and the desire to turn from sin into a life of grace, then the Sacrament can impart such a rich source of grace that the conscience is calmed and the spirit consoled. It does not benefit us to approach this Sacrament of Mercy with every intention of continuing in our ways; grace is not imparted and a great sin is committed.
Why should we confess our sins?
The practice of confessing our sins is an expression of trust and submission to the will of God in our lives. It is also an act of humility that helps us move forward in the life of grace and brings us closer to God himself. By virtue of our Baptism we are all called to be saints and therefore we should make it our effort to lives our lives saints. Through the teaching of Scripture and the Church we are given the target to which we must aim in this life. Confession is the remedy to our failure.
But our sins also have a social dimension. Through Baptism we are part of the communion (community) of the Church. Our sins not only affect our relationship with others and with oursleves, but also with the Church. As St. Paul reminds us “If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it” (1Cor 12:26). Through our sin the Church (the mystical Body of Christ) suffers as our soul suffers – Communion is either damaged or broken. When we receive the absolution of Confession the soul is honoured by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the Church rejoices with it as we return to Communion as One.
Preparing for Confession and Making a Good Confession
During this Year of Mercy all are invited to rediscover the beauty and grace of this Sacrament. If you need help in preparing for and making a good confession you may use the following materials as a guide.